Independent education would be 'unaffordable for many parents of children with SEND' under Labour's plans, ISC CEO warns

Posted on: 26 Jun 2024

In an article for Independent Schools Magazine, ISC CEO Julie Robinson warns about the potential impact VAT on fees would have on children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

In the article exploring the Labour Party's tax policy as part of the magazine's 'VAT special', Ms Robinson writes: “Unfortunately, it would make independent education unaffordable for many parents of children with SEND. Smaller, more vulnerable independent schools may face closure as pupils move to the already stretched state sector. SEND provision in the state system is already in crisis so these schools would likely lack the capacity and resource needed to support any influx of additional pupils.

“There is an incentive for more families to seek EHCPs, since these would be VAT-exempt. This would add strain on local authorities, already struggling to cope with a rise in applications. Recent reports suggest thousands of children with complex needs are missing out on support because councils are unable to meet care plan deadlines, said to be a result of growing demand and insufficient funding.

“This is why we are calling for an exemption for all pupils with SEND from the VAT proposals, as well as a full impact assessment of the policy on state SEND provision and local authority budgets. We are concerned that without a comprehensive evaluation of the potential consequences, Labour's pledge could create a catastrophe in the SEND sector.

“All children should be able to access the specialist support they need, and their families should have freedom to opt for an independent school without the threat of punitive tax measures affecting their choice.”